The stars were out in Houston on Friday for the heavyweight battle between the state of Texas' Class 5A defending state champion North Shore High School and Elsik High School. With numerous blue-chip recruits on hand - including Rivals100 tight end Dajleon Farr - it was a great measuring stick to see how the talented prospects matched up against each other.
In the game, Elsik quarterback/athlete Morris Crosby nearly pulled off a surprising upset at Galena Park ISD Stadium, before falling 18-7 to the Mustangs.
Crosby showed why college recruiters are circling around the Westside high school, combing a daring running style and a surprisingly strong arm. The 5-9, 180-pound athlete flashed his 4.4 speed on an option keeper around the right side for a 45-yard touchdown early in the third quarter. He ended up with 98 yards rushing of 14 attempts and threw for 60 yards on four completions.
It was too little too late for the Rams, however, who was smothered by a stingy North Shore defense led by linebacker Josh Jolivette and defensive back Freddie Patton.
Jolivette, considered the best linebacker in North Shore history by his coaches, had an interception in the second quarter.
While he is a little undersized at 5-10, Jolivette is a coaches' dream - an extension of them on the field. Jolivette's brother, Mike, started three seasons at Arizona.
Patton, who has an offer from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, patrols the secondary and laid out Crosby several times with his physical play.
Patton (5-10, 180-pounds) is also receiving interest in his personal favorite Kansas.
The brightest star on Friday's stage was Farr, though.
Farr was never thrown to in the Mustangs' conservative offense, but did open holes for his new quarterback and a flashy running back that combined for 223 yards rushing.
Farr freed up the corner, manhandling Elsik defensive ends Aaron King and Trey Ross , who matched him physically.
Assisting Farr on the offensive line was Everett Edwards at tackle. Edwards is a road-grader with good feet to open holes and protect the quarterback.
Senior running back Clifford (Deion) Gilliam flashed his speed on the first drive of the game, taking a screen pass in the backfield, breaking a few tackles and running past the Ram defense for a 65-yard touchdown. More impressive, Gilliam scored over 1,000 on his SAT, which he received a few weeks ago.
Gilliam (5-9, 165-pounds) is the fastest Mustang and is surprisingly durable for his size. The double-headed quarterback juniors Kevin Rutland and Terrance Cain showed their strengths as Rutland led all rushers with 145 yards, while Cain threw for 78 yards and a touchdown.
Matt Malatesta, a 34-year-old LSU graduate, covers recruiting in the state of Texas for Rivals.com. Struck by a visit to North Shore in January of 2003, he followed the Mustangs throughout the off-season, state championship run and the winter recruiting period, entrenching himself inside the North Shore locker room. His book, It's My Life, has been published and is out locally in Houston. For more information, check out www.mattmalatesta.com or email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.